LINCOLN — Enough signatures have been verified to force a vote on repealing Lincoln's recently adopted gay-rights ordinance, but two city officials said Tuesday that they expect another course will be taken to allow Capital City voters to resolve the issue.
Lincoln City Council member Carl Eskridge, who introduced the ordinance, and City Attorney Rod Confer both said they anticipate that the City Council will move to rescind the so-called “Fairness Ordinance” and then put the issue directly before voters with a city charter amendment instead.
A press conference may be held today on that subject, Eskridge said, once city officials work through “the mechanics” of holding such a vote.
The original ordinance banned discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodations.
Its passage last month prompted a backlash from conservative religious groups, who mounted a petition drive to put a repeal of the ordinance to a vote.
Petition organizers turned in 10,092 signatures last week.
But last week, Confer and Mayor Chris Beutler both said that the repeal petition faced legal problems and that the best route for resolving the issue would be for the council to rescind the ordinance itself and then conduct an up-or-down public vote on the issue.
On Tuesday, Lancaster County Election Commissioner Dave Shively announced that he had verified 2,767 signatures of registered voters, which was about 250 more than needed to force a public vote.
That puts the issue squarely in the lap of the Lincoln City Council, which must decide whether to place the petition to repeal the ordinance on the ballot or rescind the ordinance itself and place the issue on the ballot as an amendment to the city charter.
Calls to two groups against the ordinance, Family First and the Nebraska Family Council, were not immediately returned Tuesday afternoon. They have expressed concerns previously about how a ballot issue crafted by the City Council would be worded.
Eskridge said he remains positive that Lincoln voters would support such an anti-discrimination measure.
“I honestly feel it's good for Lincoln and good for business in Lincoln,” he said. “We're the only Big Ten city that doesn't offer this protection. There are 160 cities who offer this protection. We're the second-largest city in Nebraska. It's time for us to step up.”
The City Council of the largest city in Nebraska, Omaha, passed a similar ordinance by a narrow margin in March.
Contact the writer: